Watching “Batman Begins” again, I was struck with déjà vu. Christian Bale in a jail cell; I’ve seen this before. In fact, Bale can be seen in jails, prisons, and prisons camps in many of his films. Here’s is a compendium of Christian Bale’s time in cinematic prison. (I haven’t seen “Newsies” and “Swing Kids” in a while, but I’m guessing there could be some jail time there too).
This remake starring Samuel L. Jackson showcased Bale as the vicious, reckless, and high strung Walter Wade Jr. With Wade’s wealth and connections, he doesn’t spend a ton of time in jail.
In this dystopian film where people take pills to suppress their emotions, John Preston (Bale) is drawn to an imprisoned rebel (Emily Watson) and becomes an enemy of the state. Bale kills 118 people, making the third most deadly movie character of all time.
Batman Begins 2005
Hiding from his past, Bruce Wayne (Bale) takes on criminals 7 at a time in prison. Not impressed by his antics, but seeing potential Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson) arranges for his release and teaches him to fight evil at a higher level with the League of Shadows.
Rescue Dawn 2006
Based on the true story of Vietnam War fighter pilot Dieter Dengler, Bale spends most of the movie in a prisoner of war camp devising his escape. Despite the torture, starvation, and bleakness of his situation, this has to be Bale’s most ebullient performance.
The Prestige 2006
Second collaboration with Christopher Nolan, Bale plays Alfred Borden, rival magician to Hugh Jackman’s Robert Angier. Borden and Angier try to one up the other, each time stripping away something valuable. Finally, Borden is arrested and convicted of Angier’s death during his stage act. Borden is executed, but like a master magician he knows, “making something disappear isn’t enough; you have to bring it back.”
3:10 to Yuma 2007
Civil War vet Dan Evans takes a desperate job of escorting deadly criminal Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) to a catch a train to his trail in Yuma. Instead of being in jail, Bale is the warden of one conniving inmate. The two cannot help but form a mutual respect for the other.
Public Enemies 2009
Bale plays G Man Melvin Purvis on the hunt for Johnny Depp’s John Dillinger. Being that it’s Michael Mann, I couldn’t wait for the two to face off, which they do when Dillinger is locked up. Bale gets to be on the other side of the bars this time.
The Fighter 2010
All that prison time paid off for Bale in David O. Russell’s “The Fighter.” As Dicky Eklund, Bale plays the manipulative, drug addict brother to Mark Walberg’s Mickey Ward. Eklund gets locked up, but Mickey can feel his brother’s influence from the penitentiary. Eklund becomes the “mayor” of the prison with his charismatic style and unbreakable swagger. But underneath, Dicky is crumbling. Bale won his first Academy Award bringing that painful vulnerability and unfounded confidence to the screen.
With “The Dark Knight Rises” it looks like Bale will be back in prison. With all this experience, it should be one hat for him by now.